ANSEL’S ARMY, by Elizabeth Barrette

The summer’s heat is hardly past,
The harvest not yet in.
Confused on hillsides, cattle roam
With nary barn nor pen —
But not a horse you’ll find abroad
Where Ansel’s army’s been.

This time last summer, side by side,
We worked in every field.
The kingsmen and the cottagers
Made every meadow yield —
But now we’re drawing battle lines;
Our country’s fate is sealed.

You raised the taxes, and we paid;
The roads are built with gold.
You passed the laws; we followed them.
Good men do as they’re told —
But Ansel’s tale is evil truth,
And that we won’t uphold.

The new priests say that magic is
A black and bloody bane,
And “Superstition!” soldiers cry
To make their loathing plain —
But long the breath of our homeland
Has whispered things arcane.

The rain is coming from the west;
The sky grows grey and dim.
You say we’re nothing more than chaff
To fly when things get grim —
But Ansel rode this way last week,
And I rode off with him.

We’re farmers, herders, crofters, all;
Not soldiers trained to kill.
We’re armed with pitchfork, rake, and flail;
Not sword or pike or bill —
You say that we won’t stand a chance;
I’m telling you we will.

The worms may wither crops afield
And maggots wreck the thatch.
A country lives or dies by men
And all that they dispatch —
You built your pyre by yourselves,
But Ansel struck the match.

No more our brothers, no more kin;
We’ll strike you from the page.
You would not hear our reasoned words,
So heed instead our rage —
You shall not slay a newborn babe
For being born a mage.


Elizabeth Barrette writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry in the fields of speculative fiction, gender studies, and alternative spirituality. Previous credits include the short stories Peacock Hour in Triangulations: Taking Flight and Pvaga and the Censor in The Lorelei Signal; the articles Appreciating Speculative Poetry in Internet Review of Science Fiction and Cyberfunded Creativity in EMG-zine; the book Composing Magic: How to Write Rituals, Spells, and Magical Poetry; and the poems A Door into Summer in Abandoned Towers and Dancing with Stones in Strange Horizons. She hosts a monthly Poetry Fishbowl on her blog, The Wordsmith’s Forge (, writing poems based on prompts from her audience. She also reviews books and music on Reviews from Hypatia’s Hoard ( At science fiction conventions and other events, she presents panels on various topics. She enjoys suspension-of-disbelief bungee-jumping and spelunking in other people’s reality tunnels.

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